I’m Just Saying: With Florence on the way, WEG can wait

Published 8:00 am Friday, September 14, 2018

After two years, this was the day I’d been waiting for. 

As a lifelong rider and trainer, the idea of the World Equestrian Games being held down the road in Mill Spring is heady stuff indeed. Now, I am well aware just how boring horse talk can be to those who would rather talk golf, football or tennis, so let me just say this is the equivalent of The Masters being a 20-minute drive from your home, Wimbledon around the corner, the Super Bowl attainable by Uber…

Driving up the exit ramp to the Tryon International Equestrian Center, I was astounded by how much building had been completed, despite the sound of earth moving equipment below, and only cringed when the new, large green sign erected by the DOT directed me to turn left to the Tryon International “Equestrain” Center.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

People: if ever there was a time to divert funds to the North Carolina Public School System, this is it. I can just hear the Southern pronunciation in that spelling of equestrian. But there’s no need to be hooked on phonics, for Pete’s sake, look it up!

As I stood in line with other journalists (weird, really, as I’m a college dropout) inside the accreditation building to pick up my media kit, I could hear different accents from around the globe: German, Japanese, Polish (determined from the black polo shirt with red letters across the back spelling POLAND).

It was hard to believe that in a mere 48 hours I would be watching my sport, dressage, and sitting close enough to throw a rock at my idol, Carl Hester, as he competes for Great Britain, on his latest produced mount, Hawtins Delicato. 

Of course, I root for Team USA, and they stand a very good chance of standing on one of the medal podiums. It’s just, as a decades long fan of Hester because of his modest background from a distinctly non-horsey family growing up on the Isle of Sark (or, as Carl refers to it, 500 alcoholics clinging to a rock), I’m still rather dazzled that it was the Hester-led group in the 2012 London Olympics who not only scored the first medal, ever, for England in dressage, but a gold one as well.

Add to that that the individual gold went to the rider he had mentored, Charlotte Dujardin, on his own horse, Valegro, and it’s even more impressive. His is a climb to the top based on years of gritty hard work, without the financial support of wealthy parents or marrying money.

He trained obscure young horses that were purchased for $2,000 and $3,000. Those of us still in the trenches relate to that the way a backyard mechanic dreams of NASCAR.

Waiting for my laminated media ID to be handed over, I fantasized over the press conferences to come, the possibility of even lobbing him a question — I scrolled through the headlines on my phone and saw that Hurricane Florence had grown to a Category 4 and was within striking distance. Then came the appeal for volunteers to help with people evacuating their horses from the coast to our local show grounds, Foothills Equestrian Nature Center.

Suddenly, the glamour of witnessing the performance of the world’s best astride multi-million-dollar horses dimmed a bit as having evacuated my own horses from California wildfires, I empathized only too well with the stress and exhaustion.

Many of the horses arriving at FENCE were therapy horses for the disabled, as well as show horses and simple riding horses.

I picked up my kit, poked my head into the media center down the hill and walked back to my truck. If I fed and watered my own horses a little early, I could be at FENCE in time to offer any help that might be needed. Might even pick up some snack foods and drinks as I was sure everybody was hungry.

I’ll be back to watch you, Carl, as well as Charlotte, Team USA and everyone else. But for now, along with several others, it’s important to tend to the needs in our own backyard.